The lyrical content in rap music isn’t always the most child-friendly. More than just explicit language, it’s the explicit content and innuendos that young minds might not completely comprehend. What does Dirty Sprite mean to a child? Are kids able to understand what it means to have a bunch of woman as side chicks? Is Netflix and Chill easy to annotate if you had to break it down to a class of fifth graders?
I believe it’s up to the parents to teach their children, to be the guidance they need for questions such as these. But what if the rappers who use these terms and phrases had to face kids and explain them? That’s what I love about All Def Digital’s Arts & Raps - an interview series that forces rappers to answer the tough questions, asked by kids who haven’t reached adolescence.
You can almost see the sweat trickle down the face of Boogie as Dillan and DJ inquire about Netflix and chilling. Two young men, no older than 10 or 11 - the ripe age of curiosity. Netflix and Chill is a phrase that’s both on the radio and on shirts, they’ll see it, or hear it, before even knowing what it truly means. Putting the Long Beach rapper in a funny predicament - having to dance around the true meaning while trying to find a suitable explanation.
He did the same dance on the first question: what’s Ciroc? He couldn’t simply say the magical elixir that P. Diddy is constantly marketing to the masses but something about an energy drink for adults isn’t fitting either. That wouldn’t make sense to two kids who hear the word buzz and still think of killer bees swarming. The humorous series puts rappers in a different kind of hot seat. They aren’t being asked questions by journalists seeking quotes, but children seeking clarity.
Back in 1998, Bill Cosby had a show on CBS called Kids Say The Darndest Things. Bill would ask a question and a child would say the darndest thing in response - a simple concept, a simple show. Children are quick witted and unaware of what a filter is, they speak their minds without the worry of consequences, and Kids Say The Darndest Things was able to sell blunt honesty as told by the most blunt and the most honest. Art & Raps takes that very idea and flips it to fit this current age of information. Instead of responding with the darndest answers, they’re asking the questions. It’s different talking about loud packs and cough syrup with cute kids who still have their baby teeth falling out. Too Short has proclaimed his favorite word all across the world, but he hesitated when the question comes from innocent faces who probably never heard “Blow The Whistle.” The juxtaposition is brilliant.
Incorporating children, humor, and rap artists keeps things simple and fun. The questions are scripted, but their responses seem genuine and reactionary instead of rehearsed. Yazz, better known as Hakeem Lyon from Empire, was truly surprised when the question, “Who is Molly and why do all the rappers sing about her?” was asked. He draws a painful blank, opting to try and sell Molly as candy, and not the drug. Problem didn’t dance around, none of his answers were sugarcoated, making his one of the most entertaining interviews. From talking about Nicki Minaj’s butt to delivering a straightforward response about parents having sex, you can tell he isn’t afraid to tell a child how it is.
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It’s funny to watch rappers’ squirm like awkward adults talking about the birds and the bees. Children have that effect on adults, able to take you completely out of your element. All Def Digital made sure the videos are extremely well done. You can tell by the quality of the visual that a team is involved in the entire process. The added animation is a nice, subtle touch. I enjoy the incorporation of art. The rappers are completely in the children's worlds - painting with brushes, painting with their fingers, coloring with markers, it takes them from being these big personas into adults sitting in on a kid’s playtime. They aren’t making Picasso's’, there are far more stick figures than Starry Nights, but it isn’t about perfection, it’s about art. There’s nowhere else on the internet bridging art, rap, and children in this way. The selection of rappers is diverse. There are well-known participants like K. Camp, Yo Gotti, Riff Raff, and Royce Da 5’9, as well as underground rising stars like Super Duper Kyle, Dreezy, Masego, and SPZRKT.
There isn’t an episode better than the one that features Russell Simmons. Russell started All Def Digital to bring comedy, music, and entertainment news to YouTube. Him taking part in Arts & Raps is like interviewing your boss and he held nothing back. His Twitter handle is Uncle Rush and he stays true to the name. Russell is like that extreme family member that will tell your kids the harsh truth that most parents try and step around. Just listen as he breaks down the evils of steak, even going as far as daring the kids to go cut up an animal. He’s candid yet outrageous, funny but honest, and real as they come. After talking with him, I wouldn’t be surprised if the kids walked away a little scared and a lot of enlightened. Or it’s possible that all the wisdom he bestowed went in one ear and out the other.
Kids will always say the darndest things. Rappers will forever be explicit and raw. Bringing those two worlds together is a formula for success. Rappers are always asking for the real and it doesn’t get any more real than a couple of kids wondering why Future mumbles. Don’t sleep on this series. Some of the best, most entertaining interviews in rap are being handled by children.
Arts & Raps, filling the void that 106 & Park left behind - one couch, two hosts, and a really good time.
By Yoh, aka Yoh Writes The Darndest Things, aka @Yoh31.